Answering your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines

Our pharmacy students and faculty members help clear the air

As 2020 drew to a close, the first two effective vaccines for COVID-19 were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Within days, institutions around the country, like UCSF, began vaccinating health care workers, essential workers, and vulnerable individuals.

In the coming months, these vaccines are expected to become widely available and additional COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be approved by the FDA. Pharmacists, who are trained to be immunizers, will be critical for preparing these vaccines and safely inoculating the general population, and many of these vaccinations will occur in pharmacies.

The UCSF School of Pharmacy posed common questions about these new vaccines, collected from the community, to faculty members and pharmacy students.

This page was originally posted February 12, 2021. It will be added to and updated regularly.

Desi Kotis, PharmD, chief pharmacy executive at UCSF Health, describes the negative side effects of the COVID-19 vaccines. (1 minute 28 seconds)

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Transcript and reference

Can the COVID-19 vaccine make you very sick or even kill you?

So the COVID-19 vaccines cannot kill you, they can't hurt you. The benefit of this vaccine is tremendous.

There are some local and systemic, initial allergic-type reactions that occur.

They don't occur very often, we have not seen them very often.

They are treated locally at the clinic or at the drive-through when a vaccine is administered.

Usually these happen within 10 minutes of receiving the vaccine.

The other side effects that are talked about quite a bit are those really annoying effects, mainly they happen after the second dose, usually to younger people, and those are fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue. And if those do occur they can be treated with your favorite remedy whether it's acetaminophen or Tylenol, Excedrin or ibuprofen, a non-steroidal like ibuprofen or Motrin.

So really the benefits of the vaccines, truly a beacon and a sign of hope, and they outweigh any of the risks.


Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Crystal Nguyentan explains the recommendations for immunizing children with the COVID-19 vaccines. (45 seconds)

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How old does a child need to be in order to get the vaccine?

The vaccine is definitely available for adults but it gets a little complicated for people under 16 and people under 18 years old.

So the Pfizer vaccine is approved for people aged 16 and up, and Moderna for people age 18 and up, and this is because of the clinical trials and the population they studied.

But the Pfizer vaccine is being studied right now in adolescents age 12 and up and for the Moderna vaccine in adolescents age 12 to 17.

So we should see some data coming up for younger populations in the next year.


How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Nathan Dang explains whether you need to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you’ve already been sick. (42 seconds)

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Do you need to get the vaccine even if you've already been sick?

Yes, you should get the vaccine even if you've already had COVID.


Well, recovering from COVID can offer you some natural immunity but we don't know yet how long that immunity will last.

Since COVID is so serious and reinfection is possible we recommend getting the vaccine for extra protection.

Please note, however, that if you've recently been treated for COVID you may need to wait 90 days before getting the vaccine.

Talk to your physician or pharmacist first to find out when the best time is for you to get the vaccine.


Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, faculty member in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, explains whether you should get the vaccine if you are trying or will try to get pregnant. (1 minute, 57 seconds)

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Is it okay to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're trying or will try to get pregnant?

I know that there's a lot of information on this topic available on social media that can be really confusing, so let me tell you what we know today from the experts.

All vaccines are studied for side effects that are both immediate and can happen years in the future. The COVID-19 vaccine is not only being studied in tens of thousands of patients today but it'll continue to be studied for years to come.

Just like all vaccines and drugs, the way the COVID 19 vaccine works is it actually trains the body to develop antibodies to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 and to prevent the illness from COVID. And the science says that these antibodies that are formed, that there's no evidence that the antibodies formed by the COVID-19 vaccine can cause any problems with pregnancy.

And there's no evidence of any fertility problems as side effects from any vaccine, and that's not just the COVID vaccine, but that's any vaccine. And these vaccines have been studied for years.

So the answer to the question is, yes, if you want to become pregnant, now or in the future, you can get the COVID 19 vaccine when it's available to you.


Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Kharissa Reyes explains whether you’ll need to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year. (46 seconds)

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Will you have to get the COVID-19 vaccine every year?

It’s too soon to know whether we’ll need an annual COVID-19 vaccine. It hasn’t even been a year since the first person had their vaccine so we don’t know how long immunity will last.

Also, we don’t know how fast the virus mutates or if it’s in a way that will prevent our current vaccines from working.

Researchers are looking into both of these questions right now and with time we’ll know more. If we do need a new vaccine every year, luckily the mRNA vaccines are fairly easy to update and we can adjust them to cover the new strains of viruses pretty quickly.


COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Vs. Fiction: An Expert Weighs in on Common Fears (UCSF News)

Pharmacy student Mikael Habtezion explains whether grandparents who are vaccinated can play with their grandchildren. (1 minute, 15 seconds)

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If a grandparent receives the vaccine, can they play with their grandchildren?

Now that the vaccines are here many families are eager to reunite with each other especially after being separated for most of the previous year. If all members of a family are vaccinated, then this poses much less of a risk. However if children are not vaccinated then we have to be a little more cautious. This is because they can still carry and transmit the virus and with COVID-19 still spreading in our communities we have to remain vigilant and continue taking precautions.

And although the vaccine does significantly lower your chance of getting the virus, the risk is not completely eliminated. Once the rates of transmission in our community are low enough, then this will pose much less of a risk.

Fortunately we have two things going for us right now: more vaccines are becoming available and more people are getting the vaccine, which will help lower those rates of transmission, and clinical trials are currently underway to help confirm the safety and efficacy of vaccines in children. Both of these will help us reach the herd immunity we need in order to safely reunite with our families.


When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Leah Reyes explains how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and vetted in a short period of time. (1 minute, 53 seconds)

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Was the vaccine rushed through the development and approval process?

Well, the vaccine certainly rolled out much sooner than we all anticipated. The COVID-19 vaccine was certainly not rushed through the study process. I recognize people may have some concerns regarding the safety of the vaccine but I'm here today to hopefully alleviate some of those concerns so that we can all feel comfortable to receive the vaccine.

The rapid development of the vaccine can be attributed to three things: global collaboration, technological advancement, and vaccine research funding. Creating the COVID-19 vaccine was a global initiative in which scientists all over the world collaborated with one another to identify and sequence the viral component needed to create the vaccine.

No steps were left out of the study process and keep in mind that safety nets and several people work to deem the vaccine safe. Of note scientists did not have to start from scratch since SARS CoV-2 is a member of the coronavirus family. Pharmaceutical companies, such as Moderna for example, have extensively studied other strains of the coronavirus, such as SARS or MERS, in the past. Secondly, novel techniques for vaccine development, specifically genomic sequencing, are responsible for the rapid sequencing of the COVID-19 sequence in only 10 days after the initial outbreak in January of 2020.

Since time was of the essence, this process was further expedited by emergency funding from the NIH and CDC which was estimated to cost around 31 to 68 million dollars. This allowed for rapid recruitment of study subjects so that trials could begin. This created the perfect storm that allowed for the COVID 19 vaccines to be developed and tested much more quickly.


Safety of COVID-19 Vaccines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Christopher Nowak explains whether you can get COVID from the vaccine. (47 seconds)

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Can you get COVID from the vaccine?

No, none of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines, the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson and Johnson, or any of the vaccines currently in development in the U.S., contain the live virus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes COVID-19. They contain instructions on how to make pieces of the virus in order to generate an immune response to protect against COVID but they don't cause COVID.

Now when you get your vaccine you may feel symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, chills, but this is completely normal and it's a sign your immune system is healthy and working to generate your own protection against COVID.


Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Stephanie Do addresses whether the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. (45 seconds)

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Do the vaccines cause infertility?

There is currently no evidence showing that any of the available COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. If you are trying to become pregnant or plan to in the future, you should consider the potential risks of contracting COVID-19 while pregnant. Pfizer's clinical trial data has also shown that women of child-bearing age who received the vaccine were able to become pregnant afterwards. Therefore, if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant in the future, you may receive the vaccine when it becomes available to you.


COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Pharmacy student Neda AbuGharbiyeh addresses whether you should continue to wear a mask and social distance after getting the vaccine (1 minute, 9 seconds).

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Do you still have to wear a mask and social distance after getting the vaccine?

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals can resume most activities without masks and without social distancing. Individuals are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or 2 weeks after the single dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. However, fully vaccinated persons should still wear a mask and practice social distancing if it is required by federal, state, or local regulations. This includes travel on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation along with local business and workplace rules. We are still learning how effective the vaccines may be against different variants and for how long they provide protection. As a result, these guidelines may change as we learn more information, so stay tuned for additional announcements from the CDC.


When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Leading on COVID-19 vaccinations

The School of Pharmacy has been an integral part of UCSF’s efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines. From inoculating patients to educating the public on the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, the School is working to be part of the solution to the coronavirus pandemic.

Check back for our latest coverage of the vaccination roll out.

Thu Feb 17, 2022 From haircuts to high blood pressure management
Wed Jun 2, 2021 This page:
Answering your questions about the COVID-19 vaccines
Mon Apr 26, 2021 School trains more pharmacists to deliver critical vaccinations
Wed Feb 10, 2021 Pharmacy community lends hand to UCSF COVID-19 vaccine effort
Thu Dec 17, 2020 How we know it’s safe to get the vaccine


School of Pharmacy, Department of Clinical Pharmacy, PharmD Degree Program

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.